Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Whilst you're here, you should check out the intelligent and funny Iszi Lawrence on the Sunday Supplement, and also get yourself some of the finest skeptical apparel available from Neil Davies (talented illustrator of many things, including Skeptic Trumps)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Irrational me

I read Hayley's Irrational Me post, and thought "I do some of those, but don't think they're irrational"

"- I say ‘bless you’ when people sneeze, despite there being no plague right now, and despite not being religious."

I just do this as it seems to me a polite social convention - I say thank you if it's said to me (despite on occasion being admonished as this kills fairies apparently). I'm aware of it's irrational origins, but think it's nice to be polite.

"- I cross my fingers for luck" and also "- I wish people luck."

These are linked. I wish people good luck, not because I think it will improve their luck, to me it means "I hope you do well", likewise, if I cross my fingers it means I'm signaling the same sentiments with my hands. I'll also say "Keep my fingers crossed for you" or similar - again that's the same as wishing someone luck.

Of course, my understanding of what I'm doing, and someone else's when they see me are different things, which is a good thing to bear in mind.

"- I say “jesus christ!” “Holy moses!” “for gods sake!” “go to hell!” “What in the name of God!” “for my sins” when I’m not religious" Whilst these exact phrases aren't things I regualrly say, there are similar things. Are they irrational though? Our speech is peppered with many references, not just from religion (the Bible enriches English I think, for example), but also literature - just think of Shakespeare. I don't think phrases with irrational origins are necessarily irrational.

You're very welcome to disagree, and say that all of the above actions are irrational foibles of mine.

This is what I regard as my only irrational trait: I support Man Utd. When they win, I am happy, when they lose I am sad. I don't even come from Manchester, but when at school (nearly 20 years ago!) a friend did, and he supported United. Not having a football team to support, and it being a necessity of the playground, Man Utd were the team for me. But supporting a football, or indeed any sports team, in this way, is totally irrational.

So skeptics, pop over to Hayley's blog and let her know your irrational habits, if you have any.

If I was God...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bigotry 0 Equality 1 (AET)

"The charity Catholic Care has been refused permission to appeal against a ruling that it cannot exclude gay couples from using its adoption service."

This is great news!

Jesus and Mo (again) nicely sum up the attitutde that Catholic Care have had:

Gratuitous swimwear shot!

It strikes me as a shame that it is worth pointing (see Pharyngula, Why Evolution Is True and Blag Hag) out that the winner of Miss USA is pro-evolution. I'm glad that she is, and hope that the position increases opportunities for those unaware of, or fearful of, evolution, to find out more about it; but that it has to be pointed out, whereas beliefs such as the world being round; heliocentricism and that the Moon isn't made of cheese. It's basic stuff, but, alas, religious ideology is keeping it down. Apparently only 2 of the Miss USA contestants supported evolution, and one of those won. Hopefully a sign of progress. Plenty left to do though:

Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto (2006) "Public Acceptance of Evolution" Science Aug 11 2006: 765-766.

Any way, can't exactly talk about Miss USA with out a swimwear shot:

I decided to spare you my nipples.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why does it matter?

Yesterday for Father's Day we went on a National Trust organised walk around Stonehenge landscape, which was awesome.

This is a real neolithic stone knife/scraper, andI am holding it:

It's about 6,000 years old. In the car park there are some markers in the car park which show the location of holes for posts, whose wood chippings were dated to 10,000 years old.

Recently, Original Cindy asked:
Without discussing my own views does anyone care to tell me why anyone is caring if someone is a creationist or not?

There are lots of reasons why I care if someone is a creationist or not, and this is one of them.

Young Earth Creationists aren't able to appreciate how awesome that place is - I held in my hand something that's about as old as they believe the entire universe is. It was a tool that helped someone stay alive back then. It may look like just a stone, but that's the beginning of technology, that stone, forgive the pun, was cutting edge.

Look how far we've come!

There are whole avenues of awesome that are forever closed to someone who can't change their Young Earth Creationist world view. And that's a great shame.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dear skeptics, you don't need to be a PZ to make a difference!

I have some great news!

I'm a capoeira obsessive, and obviously ended up mentioning it in my SITP talk at some point. Through considerably less than six degrees of separation, one of the audience (hello if you're reading!), mentioned that she'd seen this talk from a guy that did capoeira, to one of my capoeirista friends, who then asked if it was me, as I was (unsurprisingly) the first that sprang to mind.

The great thing is that, so I'm told, she's "into alternative medicine and stuff like that" but that she's re-assesing how she thinks about them. This is great, and the best possible thing I could have heard about the talk! It was, so I'm told, down to my clear, plain arguments.

Now it's true that very small fry like myself don't have any significant fraction of the impact of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or PZ Myers when it comes to addressing issues of skepticism etc, but it all does make a difference. So, if you, dear reader, would class yourself as very small fry as well, and wonder if you're having any impact in tackling pseudoscience and such, then take heart, as it's probably more than you think, and it all adds up!

As I've mentioned capoeira, I'll leave you with an interview about capoeira I did on Radio 2 in the hope that I can have a bit more of an impact in the regard too ; )

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homeopahtic overdose done and dusted, what should I do next?

Well, Tuesday's talk went well, thanks for all the compliments. As for the video recording, less so. The batteries ran out - alas, I thought it charged off a USB, but actually the FlipCam I had takes old fashioned double As.

So, my Boots Insomnia pill were a combination remedy with the following: Kalium Bromatum, Coffea Cruda, Passiflora Incarnata, Avena Sativa, Alfalfa and Valeriana Officinalis.

As the links show, each of these have numerous symptoms. The closest we can get to an actual match is from the Alfalfa:

Abdomen.--Bloated. Hysterical cramps. Thin, watery diarrhœa, with lumps of coagulated milk, with violent screaming in children. Greenish, papescent, bloody stool. Spasms in bowels after food and at night in bed.

Of all the symptoms to get a close match it obviously had to be the diarrhoea.

Now, there are well over 50 possible symptoms, and that I got only one of these, once, after also eating a discounted chicken dish, over the course of four months further adds to my certainty, that when it comes to homeopathy, there's nothing in it.

What have I learnt? Homeopaths don't like facing up to criticism; fail to take a holistic approach when it comes to evidence; and that, answering Martin Robbin's article that started this all off, they are not, as a community, mature and capable enough to look at the evidence and reach a consensus.

I am waiting to hear, following a question at Skeptics in the Pub, how homeopaths get pure water with which to make homeopathic remedies.

So, there we go, thanks to everyone for their support. Now to find another project. I'm going to see if I can find the time to do an Alpha Course, failing that, am open to suggestions. What other woo shall I do and blog about?

In other news, this is happening tonight, I might be able to get to it after capoeira training. It would be quite fun to ask about homopathic overdosing...
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